WORLD: Organic cotton sector starting to stabilise
Following dramatic fluctuations in output over the last seven years, organic cotton production is finally showing signs of stabilising, according to new figures released this week.
The latest Farm & Fiber Report from non-profit organisation Textile Exchange shows that while organic cotton production dropped 8% year-on-year in 2012, this is much less dramatic than the 37% drop in 2010-11.
Half of the organic cotton-growing countries reported increased production, it added.
Textile Exchange is also calling for more action to increase the number of brands and retailers who connect from the farm to the final product.
The sector saw extreme growth from 2006-2010 and a big drop in 2011. But another indication the market is settling is that the total land area dedicated to organic cotton has remained fairly stable with only a 2.4% decrease from last year.
While overall market numbers are not dramatic, some countries showed interesting patterns of growth and change.
For example, the report shows huge production increases in Tanzania (+153%) and Nicaragua (+190%). Overall, Africa saw 103% growth year-on-year.
It is no surprise that India is again the world's biggest producer. In fact, 74% of the world's organic cotton comes from India. Half of the countries producing organic cotton saw an increase, including Turkey which ranks second.
However, civil unrest meant that Syria - the country reported as the second biggest producer in the last report - is now out of the numbers mix as there is currently no fibre for export. This situation also makes future forecasting difficult because there are no indications when the situation in Syria may change or improve.
Another country facing difficult issues is the United States, due to drought. 90% of US-grown organic cotton comes from the state of Texas, which saw devastating drought in the last year, hurting all US cotton growers. Droughts in Latin America (Paraguay and Brazil) were also damaging to production.
"The overall numbers we're releasing for the Farm & Fiber Report can be viewed with hope," said Liesl Truscott, farm engagement director for Textile Exchange.
"Over the last year, Textile Exchange has been successful in bringing organisations together with a focus on finding solutions and creating opportunities for the organic cotton industry.
"We have made a lot of progress in raising awareness, particularly through the efforts of the Organic Cotton Round Table [the first of which took place in Hong Kong in November 2012].
"This will propel us forward in the coming year. After the dramatic declines reported last year, we are continuing our active collaboration with the industry to support this on-going progress."
"Looking ahead, we are hopeful that organic cotton production will remain fairly stable," said Truscott.
"The situation in India is still fragile - access to good quality non-GMO seed is critical and better investment models are needed. We also cannot predict whether Syria will make a recovery next year and again export fibre.
"In addition, the uncertainty of rainfall at the right time in the US and Latin America will play a significant role in determining growth."
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